by Liz Bentley
May 13, 2014
from PreventDisease Website
When we think of the Earth holistically,
as one living entity of its own, instead of the sum of its parts, it
takes on a new meaning. Our planet functions as a single organism
that maintains conditions necessary for its survival.
James Lovelock published in a
book in 1979 providing many useful lessons about the interaction
of physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes on
Everybody has heard of Mother Earth,
but have you ever stopped to think who (or what) Mother Earth
Gaia, the Earth
sustains a kind of homeostasis, the maintenance of relatively
And right before Lovelock, Lewis Thomas, a medical doctor and skilled writer, penned these words in his famous collection of essays, The Lives of a Cell:
John Nelson illustrated the "Breathing Earth," (below image) which are two animated GIFs he designed to visualize what a yearís worth of Earthís seasonal transformations look like from outer space.
Nelson, a data visualizer, stitched together from NASAís website 12 cloud-free satellite photographs taken each month over the course of a year.
Once the images were put together in a sequence, the mesmerizing animations showed what Nelson describes as,
Mediterranean Sea is the visible body of water on the top left
hand side, and the Great Lakes make up a small network of dark
blue shapes on the land mass to the right.
In its most basic configuration, the Earth acts to regulate flows of energy and recycling of materials.
The input of energy from the sun occurs at a constant rate and for all practical purposes is unlimited. This energy is captured by the Earth as heat or photosynthetic processes, and returned to space as long-wave radiation.
On the other hand, the mass of the Earth, its material possessions, are limited (except for the occasional input of mass provided as meteors strike the planet).
Thus, while energy flows through the
Earth (Sun to Earth to space), matter cycles within the Earth.
No longer can we think of separate components or parts of the Earth as distinct. No longer can we think of manís actions in one part of the planet as independent.
Everything that happens on the planet - the deforestation/reforestation of trees, the increase/decrease of emissions of carbon dioxide, the removal or planting of croplands - all have an affect on our planet. The most difficult part of this idea is how to qualify these effects, i.e. to determine whether these effects are positive or negative.
If the Earth is indeed self-regulating, then it will adjust to the impacts of man.
However, as we will see, these adjustments may act to exclude man, much as the introduction of oxygen into the atmosphere by photosynthetic bacteria acted to exclude anaerobic bacteria.
This is the crux of the Gaia
One of the early predictions of this hypothesis was that there should be a sulfur compound made by organisms in the oceans that was stable enough against oxidation in water to allow its transfer to the air. Either the sulfur compound itself, or its atmospheric oxidation product, would have to return sulfur from the sea to the land surfaces.
The most likely candidate for this
role was deemed to be
Their study (Sulfur
Isotope Variability of Oceanic DMSP Generation and its
Contributions to Marine Biogenic Sulfur Emissions) appears in this week's
Online Early Edition of the
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The book begins by describing our usual view of water based on Western science and then deftly moves on to the frontier sciences that embrace water as the source of life in terms of biological systems, quantum energy fields, etheric fields, spirals, vortices, and as a medium for communications and memory.
An understanding of these principles
can lead to strategies for treating our water in ways that
guarantee a sustainable future for humankind.
How Does Gaia Work?
The inner workings of Gaia, therefore, can be viewed as a study of the physiology of the Earth, where the oceans and rivers are the Earthís blood, the atmosphere is the Earthís lungs, the land is the Earthís bones, and the living organisms are the Earthís senses.
Lovelock calls this the science of
geophysiology - the physiology of the Earth (or any other
Physiologists might view life as a
biochemical system that us able to use energy from external
sources to grow and reproduce. According to Lovelock, the
geophysiologist sees life as a system open to the flux of matter
and energy but that maintains an internal steady-state.
The strong Gaia hypothesis states that life creates conditions on Earth to suit itself.
Life created the planet Earth, not the other way around...
As we explore the solar system and
galaxies beyond, it may one day be possible to design an
experiment to test whether life indeed manipulates planetary
processes for its own purposes or whether life is just an
evolutionary processes that occurs in response to changes in the